Curiosity’s location as of Sol 3354. Distance driven 16.76 miles/26.98 kilometers.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3355 duties.

Ashley Stroupe, a mission operations engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory reports that Curiosity has been doing a little bit of everything: some contact science, some targeted science, and a little driving.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image acquired on Sol 3354, January 12, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The robot snagged a view of the small ledge in front of the Mars machinery named “The Prow,” “which shows some amazing layering. We also can see some disturbances in the sand that may be sliding caused by our approach,” Stroupe adds.

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3354, January 12, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3354, January 12, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3354, January 12, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3354, January 12, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A little tricky

Rover planners have been busy despite the plan looking deceptively simple.

The face of The Prow itself is just a bit out of reach, so instead Mars researchers are doing some Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) integrations on a small loose rock target called, “Ilu.”

“Rocks this small can be a little tricky because there is some uncertainty when we place the arm, though we have developed a lot of techniques that help us to get it right,” Stroupe notes.

“Once the APXS is complete and the arm is safely stowed again, we have a long set of targeted science observations with Mastcam, ChemCam [Chemistry and Camera], and Navcam,” Stroupe adds. “We are taking a large mosaic (including extensive stereo) of The Prow as well as imaging Ilu.”

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 3354, January 12, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image of “The Prow”  taken on Sol 3354, January 12, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Contact science area

In the plan is using ChemCam Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) to examine “Tramen,” and Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) to image “Contigo,” which are both on The Prow near the rover’s expected next contact science area.

ChemCam is also doing RMI imaging of “Mirador,” which is a butte about 49 feet (15 meters) south. Mars researchers are also continuing to monitor the increasing dust in the atmosphere with Navcam observations of the horizon and a Mastcam solar tau.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3354, January 12, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Potential parking spots

A scheduled drive is going to move Curiosity closer to The Prow so that contact science on the feature can be done in the next plan.

“While the drive is only a little over a meter, it is also a bit tricky. The rover planners needed to test out different potential parking spots to find the best place from which to place the arm, which took some iteration,” Stroupe reports.

“We will have to get very close to the ledge to be in the best spot to place the arm, but we also need to be careful to not get too close and let the wheels start climbing over the ledge. We are creeping up on it in small steps, each time the rover will check how far away it is in order to choose the next step,” Stroupe concludes.

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